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MISCELLANY 

THIRTY-TWO YEARS WITH ALEXANDER VI 

In a note on Alexander VI appended to my translation of Godfrey 
Kurth's famous lectures, The Church at the Turning Points of History, I 
stated that "Rev. P. De Roo, author of the History of America before Co- 
lumbus, maintains that the verdict of history regarding Alexander VI 
should be entirely reversed, that the case of the Pontiff is an astonishing 
instance of complete calumniation by authors who wrote shortly after his 
death and that Father De Roo was preparing a Life of Alexander VI in 
which he promised to prove his contentions by means of hitherto unstudied 
documents, chiefly from the secret archives of the Vatican." 

Since the publication of The Church at the Turning Points of History 
letters of inquiry from professors and students of history have repeatedly 
come to me asking about the progress of Father De Roo's work on Alex- 
ander VI. Seeing that the matter was becoming of general interest I 
decided to interview the author, and was authorized by him to make the 
announcement that he had completed a five volume work on the subject, 
and is trying now to arrange for its publication. In my interview with 
Father De Roo I learned in detail how the book came into being and how 
the pastor of a small town in distant Oregon conceived the idea of this 
gigantic undertaking and carried it to completion. 

Returning from a vacation trip in Europe in 1887, Father De Roo de- 
livered a lecture on Spiritualism in the church of one of his friends at 
Williamantic, Connecticut. The lecture which had been previously an- 
nounced was well attended and reported by a Willimantic daily on the fol- 
lowing day. About a week later the same paper published a reply to the 
lecture by the celebrated grammarian, Greene, of New York. A three 
months' controversy ensued from which the Professor withdrew with the 
"fiiendly advice that Father De Roo leave the mediums alone and give his 
attention rather to bad popes, for instance, Alexander VI." 

Father De Roo accepted the challenge and wrote two articles in defense 
of Alexander VI. The controversy had merely whetted the appetite of the 
Pastor of Pendleton, Oregon, and he asked his Ordinary, Most Rev. Wil- 
liam H. Gross, for an extended leave of absence abroad that he might 
study the original documents concerning Alexander VI. The scholarly 
archbishop graciously consented and Father De Roo set out for Rome in 
the summer of 1889. 

Father De Roo commenced his work of research in the Eternal City in 
the fall of the same year. Having obtained a passcard to the archives of 
the Vatican he went to his task with the earnest and single purpose of 
getting at the facts, whatever these might be, good or bad. But he soon 
came to the sad realization that his seemed a hopeless task, because his 
general passcard did not admit him to the archives which interested him 

55 



56 MISCELLANY 

the most — those concerning the reign of Alexander VL Undaunted by the 
fixed policy of the Vatican authorities of that day, he put his case before 
the custodian of the archives and boldly asked for access to the secret ar- 
chives on Alexander VI. Cardinal Hergenroether, the wel^ known histo- 
rian, acceded to his request. This valuable permission put within the 
reach of Father De Roo the one hundred and eight volumes of records of 
the Bulls and Briefs of Pope Alexander VI, besides records of other Popes 
bearing on the history of the same Pontiff. 

Armed with this singular authorization he began to delve into the 
dormant documents of Alexander VI, with renewed hope and energy, in 
search of the authentic facts concerning the boyhood and youth, the cardi- 
nalate, and papacy of the notorious Pontiff. 

He kept at the work for two consecutive scholastic years, copying all 
documents bearing on Alexander VI, employing at times as many as five 
secretaries. Besides the Vatican archives he examined also the State 
archives of Italy, as well as the numerous libraries of Rome. He spent 
his evenings making an analysis of the findings of the day, and in reading 
printed literature on the subject in Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, 
German, French and English. Maintaining his headquarters in Rome, 
Father De Roo visited Civita Castellana, Nepi and other places, where, as 
Cardinal Borgia, Alexander VI, had acted as civil governor, and there the 
author examined all municipal records of interest to the student of Alex- 
ander VI. He extended his investigation to the cities of Gennazzano, Ti- 
voli, and Frascati which Alexander had visited as Pope, and Subiaco, 
where Alexander had been commendatory abbot during his eardinalate. 

During the Roman summer vacations Father De Roo spent nine weeks 
studying the archives of Vienna, four weeks making researches in Munich, 
nine weeks in Paris, and one week in Brussels. 

These investigations netted Father De Roo an aggregate of thirty-one 
volumes of copied documents. Besides these he had gone through not less 
than seven hundred volumes of printed literature, in various languages, on 
Alexander VI. 

Supplied with this wealth of information Father De Roo returned to 
America in the spring of 1892. Since then he has given his leisure time 
to this mass of documents, comparing, classifying, analyzing, translating. 

In June 1908, he resigned the rectorship of St. Joseph's in Portland, to 
which he had been promoted from Pendleton. For the last thirteen years 
he has Jived in his quiet home in the outskirts of Portland, where through 
the kindness of the Most Reverend Alexander Christie he has enjoyed the 
great privilege of a private chapel, devoting all his free time to the ex- 
clusive study of Alexander VI. 

As a result of his thirty-two years of labor on Alexander VI Father 
De Roo has now a monograph on this pope comprising five volumes of 
typewritten matter, containing an average of four hundred small folio 
pages each. 

The first volume, "The Borgia Family," gives the history of the rela- 
tives of Alexander VI and, in particular, the history of the (legitimate 



MISCELLANY 57 

children of William Raymond Borgia, first cousin of Alexander VI, who 
are erroneously attributed to Alexander VI himself by some leading 
writers and an endless multiplicity of trailers. 

The second volume, "Alexander VI from the Cradle to the Throne," 
treats of his youth, his cardinalate, and his election to the papacy. Ac- 
cording to this vojume Roderic Borgia led his class in the school of Valen- 
cia, Spain, where he studied Spanish, Latin, Mathematics and Religion. 
At the University of Bologna, Italy, at the expiration of a regular course 
in Civil and Canon Law, he graduated, not with the ordinary degree of 
Doctor in Civil and Canon Law, but with the extraordinary title of "The 
Most Excellent Jurist." In the entire period covering his youth there is 
no record, no mention, no whisper, no vestige, of any shortcoming in his 
moral conduct, in any authentic document or contemporary writing. On 
the contrary, the various Papal Bulls, (at least two dozen in number be- 
stowing benefices upon him as a help in the pursuit of his studies) in- 
variably speak of him as an eminently virtuous young man. 

As a Cardinal Roderic Borgia earned the esteem, confidence, and liberal 
patronage of the five successive popes under whom he served. At the time 
of the war with the Turks Cardinal Borgia built and equipped a galley. 
To pay for this vessel he offered for sale the palace in which he lived, and 
failing to sell, he was compelled to mortgage this valuable property. To 
pay his living expenses at that time of money stringency he was forced to 
hypothecate three years of revenue. 

At his election to the papacy he went into the conclave without being 
mentioned as a candidate. After five days of fruitless balloting the votes 
were equally and hopelessly divided between two cardinals, neither of 
whom seemed able to secure the necessary two-thirds of the votes. After 
the balloting of the sixth morning the cardinals decided unanimously to 
elect Cardinal Borgia the following day. There was but one dissenting 
vote, that of Roderic Cardinal Borgia. 

The volume pays due attention to the vile anonymous pamphlet 
of unknown birthdate and birthplace, which has been extensively relied on 
for information on Alexander VI by both friend and foe, for the last five 
centuries. Father De Roo says that this is preposterous, because the 
pamphlet repeatedly states facts utterly at variance with proven historical 
data and are mutually contradictory. Thus, for instance, the pamphlet 
alleges that Roderic Borgia was a merchant, a lawyer, a soldier in Spain, 
whilst it is evident beyond the shadow of a doubt, from Pontifical Bulla 
quoted by Father De Roo, that Roderic Borgia was at that very time pur- 
suing his studies in Civil and Canon Law at the famous University of 
Bologna. 

The third volume treats of Alexander VI as Pope. It cites his acts to 
preserve and propagate the faith, his reforms, and plans of further re- 
forms of the Roman Curia, the monasteries, and Catholic institutions gen- 
erally, besides his defense of ecclesiastical rights and papal authority. 
It gives the documentary history of Jerome Savonarola, who died, in spite 
of the pope, a victim of his political schemes. It is also quoted in this 



58 MISCELLANY 

volume how correctly and carefully Alexander VI applied the Church laws 
on Matrimony, in particular regarding the so-called divorces of Stanis- 
laus of Hungary, and Louis XII of Prance. After relating the various 
ways and means adopted by the pontiff to stimulate virtues and foster 
piety it closes with the history of the Sacred College and of a few rebel- 
lious cardinals during his pontificate. 

The fourth volume deals with the career of Alexander VI as a temporal 
prince, his diplomacy with the courts of Europe, and his success in wars 
against the many petty princes who tyranized their subjects. 

The fifth volume makes known his assiduous efforts against the Turks, 
the story of his death, his means of subsistence, or financial resources. The 
penultimate chapter of this fifth volume contains a discussion of his mo- 
rality as a youth, as cardinal, and chiefly as pope. It mentions the assurance 
given by four cardinals to King Charles VIII, that, in the year 1495, the 
pontiff was leading a life at least as holy as when he was unanimously 
elected to the supreme pontificate. The article praises the Pope's unusual 
activity, his extraordinary frugality, his boundless confidence in God, hi« 
tender love of the Blessed Virgin, his faithful attendance at solemn func- 
tions at St. Peter's, his special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, his love 
for the beauty of God's house manifested by frequent personal donations, 
his impartial justice towards his people, his charity towards the poor and 
the needy, the encouragement he gave to learning, sciences and arts, his 
fearless defense of the down-trodden. The chapter concludes by saying: 
"It is no wonder, therefore, that the Romans, although fickle and easily 
excited, never attempted to make any disturbance during all the years of 
his administration. The works which Alexander VI accomplished prove 
him to have been a great pope and king, and a father to his people." 

The last chapter contains praises of Alexander VI by contemporary 
writers. 

In a letter to me under date of Nov. 28th, Father De Roo says that he 
is considering having the book printed in Belgium because of the difference 
in cost. 

Rt. Rev. Victor Day, V.G., 

Helena, 
Montana.